For a time Eddie Alvarez didn’t move as the Conor McGregor juggernaut raced towards him. He smiled at the barbs and looked grounded as the tornado surrounding his opponent gathered momentum. However, in the final press conference before UFC 205 Alvarez blinked.
McGregor was once described as the ‘Irish Muhammad Ali’ but his latest escapades were closer to the Macho Man Randy Savage. Alvarez instigated the chair incident and McGregor took it to another level. How the UFC top brass will view the incident given its inaugural outing in New York is anyone’s guess.
McGregor is a money-making behemoth and his theatrics are tolerated as long as the dollars keep rolling in. ‘The Notorious’ creates a whirlwind before every UFC fight and opponents are sometimes swept away before they have a chance to land a glove. Alvarez looked to be the exception – until his last press conference. He stormed off the stage before McGregor even showed up and then lambasted the Irish speaking style – even though he’s half Irish.
His reaction to McGregor taking the belt was acceptable, it’s his belt after all. However, Alvarez’s statement about McGregor’s personal life was despicable. He took aim at someone close to McGregor. The Dubliner had already opened Pandora’s Box when it comes to dragging family members into pre-fight talk so he is not devoid of blame either. And the pundits are divided; heaping both vitriol and praise on both men.
We must not forget Alvarez and McGregor are decent human beings but when the blood is up any sense of constraint or perspective disappears. The chaotic scenes are a pre-fight norm for anyone facing McGregor and yet fighters take the bait time after time.
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‘The Notorious’ borders on genius when it comes to the fight game. He goads his opponent and mentally picks them apart while his supporters hang on his every word and the press are probably his biggest fans.
Alvarez did seem impervious to McGregor’s utterances. His previous public appearances and his rhetoric was measured and analytical. There were scenes where he sat with Mark Henry and studied his opponent carefully. There was a calmness about the work he had to do. He smiled mockingly at his opponent and denigrated McGregor’s belt and his achievements.
But, as they came around the final bend, Alvarez’s facade began to crack. His eyes darted with wildness and his willingness to upstage and trade with McGregor was ultimately a mistake. The 32-year-old was twitchy and irritated, and even before his opponent turned up he looked perplexed. For weeks he had stood at the centre of the storm unscathed; right up until that faithful press conference.
Will this be a familiar tapestry that McGregor has woven time and time again? Will Alvarez rein in his emotions before Saturday night or will he succumb to the Irishman’s barbs like many before him? This appears to be a Notorious loop that repeats itself over and over.
The real winners here are the fans. They are emotionally invested in this fight. Those emotions will be a roller coaster of agony or ecstasy and they will resonate around the Mecca of the fight game – Madison Square Garden.
Jonathan Dunne, Pundit Arena